The Investigative Report for the Interior Department Office of Inspector General entitled “Wild Horse Buyer” substantiates that one particular buyer, Tom Davis, purchased nearly 1,800 wild horses and then sold them to be slaughtered in Mexico. This story has been all over the media, and the public has taken notice. It is astonishing that this many horses were “gathered” from their ranges, were brutally slaughtered in Mexico, and no one – not at BLM nor Davis – has been held accountable. The source story, dated Oct. 29 by the LA Times, notes that animal protectors see this as “government incompetence and a willful evasion of the law” and others following this matter agree.
For three years, Tom Davis of Colorado who is a confirmed horse slaughter advocate and neighbor of Secretary Ken Salazar, bought horses through BLM’s adoption program. Those same animals were then sold directly to Mexican horse slaughter for human consumption. Back then, Davis denied the horse slaughter allegations, and the BLM personnel did not investigate where that large number of horses went. And it should be remembered that the horses were shipped to Davis free of charge, having been sold to him at a ridiculous price of $10 each. The number of horses involved should have immediately triggered questions at BLM but the selling continued until 2012. Why were the many horses not on Davis’ property – where were they? Why did no one ask questions right from the start? The paradox is that there has been no recrimination at BLM [to staff involved]. Davis has simply “skated” without being brought to task.
The Wild Horse Buyer report concluded: “We determined that the BLM did not follow current law while managing [the horse adoption program]” and “failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring that the horses went to good homes and were not slaughtered.”
It only gets worse. Davis states that BLM had to figure the horses were going to slaughter since there were so many loads of horses, 30 per truck. BLM’s staff never verified Davis’ intentions nor did they check into the welfare of the horses. Worst of all, report investigators determined that BLM did not stop supplying Davis with horses even after “receiving reports that he was sending them to their deaths.”
There are actually two ways to get wild horses from BLM – by adoption or by direct sale. A quick study of BLM’s forms, readily available online, shows that the adoption program is quite regimented and includes agency interaction between BLM and the adopter/buyer for a year or until the title is signed over.
The following is partial text from the Wild Horse and Burro Sale Program, bold and italics added by author:
- Under a December 2004 amendment to the 1971 wild horse law, wild horses and burros over 10 years old – as well as younger ones that have been passed over for adoption at least three times – are eligible for sale, a transaction in which ownership passes immediately from the Federal government to the buyer. Since that amendment took effect, the BLM has sold more than 5,800 wild horses and burros. [Note: It has been and remains the policy of the BLM not to sell or send any wild horses or burros to slaughter.] Proceeds from the sale of eligible animals are used for the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program, as directed by Congress under the sale-authority amendment. –and-
- If you are interested in buying a wild horse or burro for long-term care, please complete the Application to Purchase Wild Horses and Burros and send it to email@example.com or fax to (202) 912-7182. Here is a sample bill of sale that a buyer receives once the animal(s) has/have been purchased. Please review the clauses in the bill of sale.
In several places on these forms, BLM makes it clear horses are not to be sold or slaughtered.
- I certify that I will provide humane care for such animals and will not sell or transfer ownership of any such animals that I purchase to any person or organization that intends to resell, trade, or give away such animal for processing into commercial products.
Here are specific phrases taken from BLM’s applications and forms, bold and italics added by author:
- Adopted animal must remain in the United States until it is titled. –and–
- You may seek an exception from the BLM to adopt or purchase more than four, in which case the agency requires additional verification of facilities and compliance checks. Though you may adopt more than four in a 12-month period, you can receive title to only four adopted animals within that period. –and-
- The BLM will contact you during the application review process to verify that your facilities meet the minimum requirements for the number of animals you want to adopt. When you adopt, the BLM requires you to sign a Private Maintenance and Care Agreement. This agreement includes the following statement:
- “Under penalty of prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which makes it a Federal crime to make false statements to any agency of the United States, I hereby state that I have no intent to sell this wild horse or burro for slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products, within the meaning of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and regulations 43 CFR 4700.0-5(c).”
According to Michael Tupper, BLM’s deputy assistant director of resource and planning who has recently assumed supervision of the horse adoption program, sale-for-slaughter deals will “never happen again.” He cites that BLM will sell only four horses in six months to any buyer – is this not even more lax – the form states 4 horses in 12 months? Tupper says he is taking the report’s findings very seriously and says,
We have implemented new policies to make these horses go to good homes. The rules are designed to discourage nefarious intent. If anybody wants more than four horses in six months, they have to come to talk to me, and I’m a pretty straight-shooting guy.
Suzanne Roy who is the director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign says, “The only thing standing between mustangs and certain doom is the American public, which opposes horse slaughter.”
Roy further notes:
Almost 1,800 wild horses were sent to their deaths in a Mexican slaughterhouse and not one person is being held accountable. The people involved all still work for the BLM.
Herein lies the travesty. It is clear that a cover up occurred here. After the outcry and only because forms were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act has this whole mess seen the “light of day.” Now there is an official report of wrongdoing, even the various transaction dollars involved, and some form of apparent collusion between BLM personnel and Davis, yet no one has been fired. Nothing has been done. And it is puzzling why no action was taken regarding the Davis/Salazar relationship.
Just recently public pressure closed a horse slaughterhouse in France. Doesn’t the Davis case deserve outcry and public pressure? An apology does not make up the loss of so many horses to slaughter.
See author’s article Report about Tom Davis and illegal wild horse slaughter made public which also references earlier stories.